Poll: Large-scale solar farms are a “blight” on the countryside says Liz Truss - but do you agree?
- Credit: Matthew Usher
Environment secretary Liz Truss, (pictured), has hit out at large-scale solar farms calling them a 'blight' on the countryside as she announced plans to axe a subsidy for the schemes.
The South West Norfolk MP said she would end grants worth £2m a year which are available from her department.
The change, which will come into effect from January 2015, will mean that farmers who choose to use fields for solar panels will not be eligible for any farm subsidy payments available through the Common Agricultural Policy for that land.
Ms Truss said: 'English farmland is some of the best in the world and I want to see it dedicated to growing quality food and crops.
'I do not want to see its productive potential wasted and its appearance blighted by solar farms. Farming is what our farms are for and it is what keeps our landscape beautiful.
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'I am committed to food production in this country and it makes my heart sink to see row upon row of solar panels where once there was a field of wheat or grassland for livestock to graze.
'That is why I am scrapping farming subsidies for solar fields.
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'Solar panels are best placed on the 250,000 hectares of south facing commercial rooftops where they will not compromise the success of our agricultural industry.'
Earlier this month the Department for Energy and Climate Change (Decc) slashed its support for large-scale solar farms, with subsidies under the existing 'renewables obligation' ending next April, two years before they are curtailed for other technologies.
Decc said the move was necessary as large-scale solar developments –which have caused some controversy because of their impact on the countryside – were growing faster than expected and would exceed the budget for subsidies by £40m in the next two years.
There are currently 250 large-scale solar farms installed in the UK, with the biggest covering as much as 100 hectares.
Under previous plans, the number of fields dedicated to solar farms was set to increase rapidly, with over 1,000 ground-based solar farms expected by the end of the decade across the UK.
Waveney MP Peter Aldous, whose family agreed for solar panels to be built on their land in 2012, said: 'What this government is doing is a mixed policy towards energy, with renewable energy having a role in that and emerging technologies have a role in that too.
'There is support to enable those new technologies to move on, but subsidies cannot last forever and nobody wants them to.
'It needs to be done in an open and transparent way so that industries can develop and people can see what is happening.'
What do you think of the end of subsidies for solar farms? Write (giving your address and daytime telephone number) to EDPLetters@archant.co.uk